The Reciprocal Interest of Christ and His People.
The most learned, judicious and pious commentators, both Jewish and Christian, have ever considered this book, as a kind of parable, or allegory, which represents in a highly figurative, but striking manner, the mutual affection which subsists between Christ and his church. The correctness of this view is confirmed by the fact, that in both the Old and New Testaments, Christ is often represented as the husband of his church, whilst the church is styled the bride, the Lamb’s wife. The apostle indeed, intimates, that the marriage union was designed by God is exemplify the union between the Saviour and his people, —adding, this is a great mystery. And however strange or improper some of the figurative expressions in this book, which refer to that mystery, may appear to us, they are perfectly agreeable to the manners and language of eastern nations, and were deemed fit and proper by those in whose age and country they were written.
The persons who are introduced as speaking in this allegorical drama, are Christ, his church and her companions, who are called the daughters of Jerusalem. The words of our text were uttered by the church. I need not tell you to whom they refer. I need not tell you that Christ, and he alone, is emphatically the beloved of his church. He it is, whom having not seen they love; for Christ himself informs us, that he has not a real disciple on earth, who does not love him more than possessions, friends or life itself. Now every such disciple, every real Christian may say, Christ is mine and I am his. To illustrate and establish this assertion is my present design.
I. Every real Christian may say, Christ is mine. There are five different ways in which anything may become ours. The first is by formation, or production. In this way the articles which we construct, and the fruits of the earth which our labor produces, become ours. The second is by purchase, or exchange. In this way we obtain many things which were previously the property of others. The third is by inheritance. In this manner we become possessed of the property of deceased relatives. The fourth is by conquest. In this manner many things are acquired, especially by sovereign princes. The last is by gift. In this manner whatever is bestowed on us by the generosity of others, becomes our property. Among all these ways, there is only one in which Christ can become ours. He cannot become ours by formation, for he created us, and not we him. He cannot become ours by right of inheritance; for we are the offspring of a degenerate race and can inherit nothing from them but sin and misery. He cannot become ours by purchase; for he will not sell himself, and if he would, who is rich enough to pay the price? He cannot become ours by conquest, for who is able to overcome Omnipotence? There is but one other way in which anything can become ours, viz. by gift; and in this way Christ becomes the property of all his people.
In the first place, he is given to them by his Father. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and gave his Son that he might be a propitiation for our sins. God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son. And again, he gave him to be head over all things to his church.
In the second place, Christ gives himself to his people. He loved me, says the apostle, and gave himself for me. Christ loved the church and gave himself for it. In thus giving himself for us, he gave himself to us; for he speaks of giving us his flesh to eat, his blood to drink, his soul to be an offering for our sins, and his Spirit to dwell in and sanctify us. Since then Christ is thus given to us by his Father, and by himself, nothing is necessary to make him ours but the cordial reception of this gift. But every Christian does cordially receive him, by faith, as the free, unmerited gift of God, and thus Christ becomes his, so that he may exclaim, My beloved is mine, my Saviour, my Head, my Life, my everlasting portion.
II. And as Christ is the property of all true Christians, so, all Christians are his.
We have already mentioned the various ways in which the property of anything may be acquired. In all these ways Christians are the property of Christ. In the first place, they are his by creation; for by him and for him they were created. Their existence is not only given, but preserved by him; for he upholds all things by the word of his power. He it is that made us, and not we ourselves; so that we are the sheep of his pasture and the people of his hand.
In the second place, they are his by inheritance; for we are told that the Father hath appointed him heir of all things. As the first-born and only begotten Son of God, he is sole heir of all the Father’s possessions. Of this ample inheritance, the church is, in an especial manner, a part; for we read that the Lord’s portion is his people; Israel is the lot of his inheritance.
In the third place, they are his by purchase; for he has bought them, bought them with his own blood. If it be asked, how he could purchase what was already his own; I reply, though they were his by right of creation and of inheritance, yet they had fraudulently sold themselves to other masters, and by so doing had forfeited their lives into the hands of justice. The justice of God, and the law of God, had a claim upon them which must be satisfied, before the Saviour could claim them as his. This claim Christ satisfied. He gave himself a sacrifice in their stead, and thus redeemed or ransomed them from the curse of the law and from the fires of hell. Hence the language of the apostle, ye have sold yourselves for naught and ye shall be ransomed without money. They are so. Ye know, says the apostle to Christians, that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. Ye are not therefore your own ye are bought with a price.
In the fourth place, Christians are the property of Christ by right of conquest. If it be asked, how it could be necessary, that Christ should acquire the possession of them both by purchase and conquest, I answer, after he had paid the price of their redemption, the tyrants to whom they had sold themselves refused to give them up. They had sold themselves to sin, and thus became its slaves; for whoso committeth sin is the slave of sin, and in consequence of this, they were held as captives by the cord of their iniquities. By thus becoming slaves to sin, they had rendered themselves the captives of satan, so that they were led captive by him at his will, and he as a strong man armed, kept possession of their hearts as his castle. Being then the captives of him who has the power of death, they became subject to death, and liable to be shut up, not only in the grave, but in hell. From all these tyrants, it therefore becomes necessary to rescue them by force. This Christ has done. He, as the Lord of hosts, the Lord strong and mighty in battle, is stronger than the strong man armed. By the power of his grace he saves his people from their sins, breaking the otherwise indestructible cords in which they were bound. He has also defeated and spoiled the principalities and powers of darkness, triumphing over them in his cross. He has entered the dominions of death, taken away his sting, and received the keys both of the grave and of hell. Hence we are told, that when he ascended on high, he led captivity captive, that is, he led as captives those enemies, who had captivated and enslaved his people. Nor was this all! It was also necessary that he should conquer his people, for they had become enemies to him, by wicked works. The language of their hearts and of their conduct was, “We will not have this man to reign over us.” What was the state of their hearts we may learn from the impressive language of the Apostle. The weapons of our warfare, says he, are mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds, casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. From this passage, it appears that the minds of men are full of strong holds, high things, and lofty imaginations, which oppose and keep out the knowledge of God; and all these things Christ is obliged to cast down and destroy, before his people become willing to obey him. Well then may it be said that they are his by right of conquest.
Hence, lastly, they become his by gift. In the first place, they are given to him by his Father. This is asserted in places too numerous to mention. We shall quote but one. Speaking of Christians in his last intercessory prayer, he says to his Father, “Thine they were, and thou gayest them to me; and all thine are mine.”
In the second place, all true Christians have voluntarily given themselves to Christ. Conquered by his grace, constrained by his love, and gratefully affected by what he has done for them, they have freely and joyfully given away themselves to him, to be his forever, and consecrated all their powers and faculties to his service. Thus a union is formed between Christ and his church, which is by the inspired writers compared to the marriage union, and to that which subsists between the head and the members of the human body. He becomes bound to them, and they to him, by the bonds of an everlasting covenant, which shall never be broken; and they may therefore triumphantly exclaim, Our beloved is ours and we are his, and nothing shall ever dissolve this union or separate us from him. But it may perhaps be asked, since Christ is but one and Christians are many, how can each individual Christian possess Christ, so as to say with propriety, Christ is mine? I answer, because there is a sufficiency in Christ for all. He is infinite, and Christians are finite; and all finite beings united cannot exhaust infinity. Besides, it is the nature of every blessing which God has given us to be shared in common, that each one may possess it, without excluding others. Take for instance the sun. God designed this luminary to be a common blessing. There is therefore light and heat in it sufficient for all. Each one of you my friends derives the same advantages from the sun, as if there were no person to share them with you. What if thousands and millions in other parts of the world, and in other planets around it, are at this moment possessing and rejoicing in the sun’s light and warmth? Does that at all deprive you of these blessings? Is not the sun still as much yours as your happiness requires? Could it be more perfectly yours, if you were the only being on whom it shines? Now Christ is the Sun of righteousness, and everyone who will look to him as such, may possess him as perfectly as if there were not another Christian in the world, to share in his beams. Hence, as every person who has eyes, may say, the sun is mine, God has given it to me, to warm, enlighten, and guide me; so every Christian may say, Christ is mine; God has given him to me, to bless, to guide and save me with an everlasting salvation.
The subject we have been considering, my friends, is to the Christian, full, not only of consolation, but of instruction. To some of the most important truths which it teaches, I propose to call your attention.
1. From this subject you may learn something of the worth and interest of the Christian’s portion. A pious man once visited a friend, who had recently come into possession of a very large landed property. His friend, after some conversation, led him to the top of his house which commanded an extensive prospect, and directing his attention successively to a great number of valuable objects, added, after the mention of each particular, “that is mine.” After he had finished the long catalogue of his possessions, his guest asked, “Do you see yonder cottage on the waste? There lives a poor widow who can say more than you can; she can say, Christ is mine.” My friends, did the rich man or the poor widow, possess the more valuable property? But the very question is dishonorable to Christ. Could the rich man have pointed to the sun and moon, the planets, and the fixed stars, and said with truth, all these are mine; still his possessions, weighed against the poor widow’s treasure, would have been lighter than vanity. The Creator must be worth infinitely more than the whole creation. He can do that for those who possess him, which the whole creation cannot do. He can wash away their sins, he can sanctify their natures, he can support them under afflictions, he can prepare them for death, he can fill their souls with happiness, and he can make that happiness eternal; neither of which the whole creation could do for its possessor. O how rich then, how incalculably rich is the poorest Christian! He is the only being who is not now able and who never will be able to calculate the worth of his possessions. In possessing Christ, he possesses all things, for he possesses him who created and who disposes of all things. He is a joint heir with him who is heir of all things. Well then might the Apostle say to Christians, all things are yours. Well may Christ say to his poorest disciple, I know thy poverty, but thou art rich. And well may every Christian, contemplating his portion, cry, Thanks, thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift!
- We may learn from our subject to whom this incomparable gift belongs; who it is that without presumption, may say, Christ is mine. Every man, my friends, may say this, who can with truth repeat the other part of our text; who can truly say, Christ is my beloved and I am his property. The relation between Christ and his people, like that between a father and a son, is mutual. As no man can say respecting another, he is my father, unless he can truly add, I am his son; so no one can say of Christ, he is mine; unless he can truly add, I am his; and no one can in this sense say, I am Christ’s, unless he has freely given himself to Christ, to be his forever. Nor can anyone thus give himself to Christ, who does not love him with supreme affection, who cannot say, he is emphatically my beloved. Can you then my friends say this? Is Christ emphatically he whom your souls love? Have you freely and joyfully given yourselves to him, in an everlasting covenant, to be his and his only? If so, he has no less freely given himself to you. He has loved you and given himself for you, for his language is, “I love them that love me.” Whenever then you can be sure that you love Christ, you may feel assured that he loves you. When you can with truth say, I am Christ’s, you may always with truth add, Christ is mine.
But those who cannot with truth utter the whole of this passage cannot with truth utter any part of it; and if they attempt so to do, they will put asunder what God has joined, and finally perish in their own unbelief.
- From this subject, my Christian friends, you may learn the extent of your duty. I am Christ’s, are words easily said, but the engagements which they imply are not so easily fulfilled. If we are his, we are no longer our own. If we are his, then everything that we possess is his—our time, our possessions, our strength, our influence, our powers of body and faculties of mind, all are his, and must be consecrated to his service and glory; and if we love him supremely, they will be so, for the whole man ever follows the heart. The object which possesses our hearts will possess ourselves. And if we are Christ’s, we shall make his cause our own, his interest our own, his honor our own, and shall rejoice when we are counted worthy to suffer pain and shame for his name. This the apostle speaks of, as a truth with which he presumed all Christians were acquainted. What, know ye not that ye are not your own, for ye are bought with a price? Glorify God therefore, in your bodies and your spirits which are God’s. For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself; for whether we live, we live unto the Lord, or whether we die, we die unto the Lord; whether we live, therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s. If this view of the obligations which are implied in saying, I am Christ’s, appears discouraging, consider for your own encouragement,
- How great are the privileges which result from an ability to say, Christ is mine. If Christ is yours, then all that he possesses is yours. His power is yours to defend you, his wisdom and knowledge are yours to guide you, his righteousness is yours to justify you, his Spirit and grace are yours to sanctify you; his heaven is yours to receive you. He is as much yours as you are his, and as he requires all that you have to be given to him, so he gives all that he has to you. Come to him, then, with holy boldness and take what is your own. Remember you have already received what is most precious, and what it was most difficult for him to give, his body, his blood, his life. And surely he who has given them, will not refuse you smaller blessings. If when you were enemies to God, you were reconciled to him by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, you shall be saved by his life. You will never live happily or usefully, you will never highly enjoy or greatly adorn religion, until you can feel that Christ, and all that he possesses, are yours; and learn to come and take them as your own. Then you will have all and abound, and find that in possessing Christ you do indeed possess many things.
- From this subject, my professing friends, you may learn what is the nature of the ordinance which you are about to celebrate, and what you are about to do at the Lord’s table. In this ordinance we give ourselves to Christ, and he gives himself to us. He gives us himself in the symbols of his body and blood, and we renew the dedication of ourselves to him. He gives himself to us as a sacrifice slain for our sins, and we present ourselves as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to him. This is the language of our conduct at the Lord’s table. Is it also the language of your hearts? Are they saying, Christ, my friend, my beloved is mine, and I am his —willingly, joyfully his? If so, come and receive Christ, for he is yours. Come and give yourself to Christ, for you are his.
One word to those who are about to depart, and I have done. You have heard, my friends, that those who will give themselves to Christ shall receive him in return. This exchange I now propose to you. I offer you Christ’s heart in exchange for yours.